Falcons UDFA to watch: Jared Pinkney


Some of the greatest NFL players of all time began as undrafted free agents. Notable names like Willie Wood, John Randle, Warren Moon, and Kurt Warner are all current Hall of Famers who entered the league without being picked in the draft. We must suppress our expectations not only for immediate success but success at all when considering these rookies. But it is both possible and exhilarating to see a UDFA ascend from the bottom of a depth chart to an integral part of a team.

Jared Pinkney is the UDFA we will spotlight in this article. A Georgia native, he graduated from Norcross and went on to play four years at Vanderbilt. His best season as a Commodore came during his junior year, where Pinkney had 50 catches for 774 yards and seven touchdowns. Entering his senior year, he was on both the John Mackey and Fred Biletnikoff award watch lists. However, a transition from quarterback Kyle Shurmur to Riley Neal proved detrimental to Pinkney’s draft stock, though it was not the only factor. Senior transfer, Riley Neal was underwhelming, throwing just nine touchdowns and five interceptions.

Naturally, Pinkney’s production took a dip, only catching 20 passes for 233 yards and two touchdowns. A minor wrist injury also played a factor in this dropoff. Because of this, his once high stock was already low, and it fell even further after a poor showing at the NFL combine. And due to unique circumstances (coronavirus pandemic), he was unable to compete at his pro day, leaving teams to rely solely on his game tape and Combine results.

Pinkney has all the upside in the world, considering how highly touted he was as a prospect after his junior season. He already possesses the physical ability to threaten the middle of the field and will make his bread attacking the seam and working across the hashes. At 6’4” and 260 lbs., Pinkney is better suited as an H-back instead of a traditional in-line tight end. This is in part due to his inability to help block in-line, but he can handle move-blocking in space.

Pinkney is eager to show Atlanta and the rest of the league that he can return to form. He explained what teams should know about him to SB Nation, “Just that I’m trustworthy,” Pinkney said. “And it’s not that I’ve had things in my past, but on the field, you can trust this guy with reps pass-blocking, run-blocking, reception routes, going out for passes. And then when he leaves the facility, you can turn your phone off at night. He’s not one that you have to worry about.” If he is nothing but a training camp body, he will be accountable, which is what Dan Quinn covets most.

UDFAs have the luxury of choosing where they would like to sign, similar to college recruiting. And though Pinkney is close to home, he factored in how he fit into teams’ offenses and cultures more so. “It was definitely more about fit than location for me,” Pinkney said. “I’m a homebody anyway, so I’m not going to be out and about in the city unless I’m in my home city like I am now. Location was not it. It was more about the system they have, the coaches, the players, and the culture in the locker room.”

Atlanta saw the likes of Austin Hooper walk in free agency but attempted to replace him with former Raven Hayden Hurst who is expected to start come week one. The front office brought back Jaeden Graham and Carson Meier, and Pinkney will likely compete against them for the second and third tight end spots. UDFAs are no guarantee to make an NFL roster, but the Vandy product is an exciting prospect to watch develop under a quality offensive skill group.

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